What Your New Pastor Wants You to Know

June 10th, 2013

The other day I sent a church member an email and in it I mentioned something about preparing for the new pastor. In her reply she said something along the lines of, “will you please stop talking about leaving? I’m trying not to think about it!”

I understand what she meant. When I first announced I would be leaving I reassured everyone that there was still plenty of time and so there was no need to begin our goodbyes. Well, now it's almost time for me to leave, and I think it is time to begin an honest conversation about how this transition can be a momentum-builder for the church and a new opportunity to live in to God’s vision for us as a church. As an Easter people, we live in the light and love of the empty tomb—an empty tomb that teaches us that change can be painful, but it can also bring about amazing transformation. 

So, I want to share a few things that I, as a pastor, wish any congregation would keep in mind when receiving a new pastor. I do not pretend to speak for anyone else, but will offer this from my perspective as someone who was once the “new pastor.”

1. You are grieving the loss of someone you cared about. I am grieving the loss of a whole congregation I cared about. Instead of closing ourselves off and letting the grief become a barrier, let us use that as common ground or a place to bond. 

2. You do things differently than I am used to. I will do things differently than you are used to. Let us keep that in mind, extend grace to one another, be open to new things and communicate as honestly, effectively and clearly as we can. 

3. Try to find out who I am before placing on me all of your expectations of who you think I should be.

4. There is a lot to learn in a short amount of time, so I will not have answers to all of your questions. Please be patient and help me learn more about the community.

5. Your previous pastor should not return for weddings, funerals, baptisms, or social functions for at least the first year. This first year is important in building a relationship and trust with your new pastor. Please do not ask, as it places everyone in an uncomfortable position.

6. It may take a while to learn everyone’s name. Some of you may have names that are strikingly similar to people from the last congregation I served, and I will get confused. Please begin our conversations by reminding me of your name even after you feel I should know it.

7. God is capable, present and grace is abundant. Let us live in that knowledge together!

8. That container of cookies you brought by as my family was unpacking means so much more than you will ever know! 

9. Please do not assume I know about a regular event in the church or in the community, or that I know who is in the hospital. I need you to give me information!

10. My heart is open. 


As the outgoing pastor of a church I love, I can say that this is hard to talk about. Saying goodbye is going to be very difficult, but it is time to talk about it, so we can acknowledge our grief while moving on with open hearts.

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